Monday, June 06, 2005

Nike Free commercial connects to running reality

I'm not a fan of Nike shoes. They don't fit my feet and most of my running friends would rather run barefoot than run in Nikes. Ironically, Nike's new shoe Nike Free is a sockless running shoe. I read about this and have seen them on the road, and frankly, didn't care. I figured Nike would cash in on gimmick and marketing and in a year, the shoes would be history. That may well prove to be the case, however, Nike peaked my interest this weekend when I saw its new Run Free TV spot.

The spot features white-clad harriers running barefoot on a beach. This goes on for a little while, then parking meters, pedestrians, and other city-street fixtures pass by. The spot ends with one of the former barefoot runners stopping at city intersection, wearing a pair of Nike Free shoes.

At its strategic core, the commercial hints that when you wear Nike Free shoes, you are transplanted from your normal running route to the beauty of the beach, barefoot, in a different world. Its success comes from the fact that this image hits home to many runners on many levels.

I don't want to run barefoot on the beach. Most people know that I dislike the ocean. I also know I won't purchase a pair of Nikes. However, this morning on my run, as I navigated my boring Kansas City street route, I thought of the commercial and its application to my own often-implemented visualization techniques. Though I don't envision an oceanfront run, I do recall routes in Santa Fe that if I could, I'd drop everything to run on again. Right now. Then later. And repeat. That's just one of the many routes I remember fondly as I run through my suburban stop signs. Those routes hold sights, sounds, smells that if a marketer can recall, turn into powerful purchasing cues.

The Nike spot didn't move me any closer to purchasing a pair of Frees, but it did connect to some core desires I hold as a runner, and in turn, elevated Nike's reputation in my mind. And now, when I envision myself running through the snow in Niigata, Japan, I'll probably think of Nike. That brand association can be just as profitable as a purchase.


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